Hyacinthe-Louis de Quélen

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Hyacinthe Louis de Quelen.

Hyacinthe-Louis De Quelen (8 October 1778 – 31 December 1839) was Archbishop of Paris.


Born in Paris but of Breton noble descent, member of the Breton family Levieux sire de Quélen, (his motto "Em Pob Emser Quelen" and the older Breton expression for "Better death than dishonour" figure in stained glass in the Lazarist church in the rue de Sèvres), he was educated at the College of Navarre. Ordained in 1807, he served a year as Vicar-General of Saint-Brieuc and then became secretary to Cardinal Fesch. When the latter was sent back to his diocese, de Quelen exercised the sacred ministry at St. Sulpice and in the military hospitals. Under the Restoration of 1814 he became successively spiritual director of the schools in the archdiocese, Vicar-General of Paris, and coadjutor archbishop to the Cardinal de Talleyrand-Périgord, succeeding the latter in 1821.

The favours of Louis XVIII and Charles X did not make him subservient. As a peer of the realm he opposed, on behalf of the middle classes, the conversion of the national debt. At his reception into the Académie française he publicly lauded Chateaubriand, then in disgrace. While blessing the cornerstone of the Chapelle Expiatoire he demanded, though in vain, an amnesty for the exiled members of the Convention; and the ordinance of 1828, disbanding the Jesuits and limiting the recruiting of the clergy, was issued against his advice.

Although de Quelen had not approved the royal ordinance of July 1830, which aimed at restoring absolute monarchy, he was nevertheless held in suspicion by the House of Orléans. On one occasion Louis-Philippe said to him: "Archbishop, remember that more than one mitre has been torn asunder". "Sire", replied the archbishop, "God protect the crown of the king, for many royal crowns too have been shattered".

Apart from some official functions such as the christening of the Comte de Paris, the obsequies of the Duke of Orléans and the Te Deum sung in honour of the French victory in Africa, he confined himself to his episcopal duties, visiting the parishes of his jurisdiction, looking after the religious instruction of military recruits, and organizing the metropolitan clergy. In the outbreaks which followed the Revolution of 1830 the archbishop was twice driven from his palace. However, when the epidemic of 1832 broke out, he transformed his seminaries into hospitals, personally ministered to the sick at the Hôtel-Dieu, and founded at his own expense the "oeuvre des orphelins du choléra".

He died shortly after, having the joy of witnessing the conversion of the apostate Bishop of Autun, the Prince de Talleyrand, whose sincerity however has been questioned. Ravignan eulogized him at Notre-Dame, and Louis-Mathieu Molé at the Académie française. From de Quelen's episcopate date the "Société de St. Vincent de Paul", the "Conferences apologétiques de Notre-Dame" and several religious institutes, among which are the nursing Sisters of Bon-Secours.


Besides the eulogies on Louis XVI (Paris, 1816), on Madame Elizabeth (Paris, 1817), on the Duke de Berry (Paris, 1830), his "Discours de réception à l'académie française" (Paris, 1824), and some 120 pastoral letters, we have from his pen "Manuels pour l'administration des Sacrements de l'Eucharistie et de l'Extrême-Onction: du Baptême des Enfants: du Marriage" (3 vols., Paris, 1837–38) collected in the "Rituel de Paris".


 This article incorporates text from a publication now in the public domainHerbermann, Charles, ed. (1913). Catholic Encyclopedia. Robert Appleton Company. 

Catholic Church titles
Preceded by
Alexandre Angélique de Talleyrand-Périgord
Archbishop of Paris
Succeeded by
Denis Auguste Affre